I don’t expect my partner to be a mind-reader. That unrealistic requirement wouldn't be fair to him or our relationship, so I don't get upset if he doesn't automatically know what I want or need. Instead, I just tell him what’s on my mind, whether he wants to know or not. That said, there are times when I expect my husband to get me, and pregnancy was full of those moments. In my experience, there are definitely things every pregnant woman needs her partner to automatically understand. No wondering, no questioning, and no guessing. You should just, well, know.
Now, I am not saying I expect perfection from my partner. It's OK for him to make mistakes. But pregnancy is hard — on your body, your mind, your emotional state, and undeniably hard on your relationship with your partner. So, during the nine (more or less) months of growing an alien parasite inside your body, it's super helpful for your partner to understand a few things, without having to be told. For instance, there will be times when you don't want sex, and times when you need sex, like right now, and it might not have anything to do with your partner.
Plus, it would be great if partners recognized that morning sickness is not like a bad hangover, pregnancy is exhausting, and pregnancy hormones are not just a bad joke. A little empathy and understanding goes a long way. So, if you have a pregnant partner, or will in the future, you might want to read the following so you can better anticipate their needs like a pro:
When She's Sick
My morning sickness during my first pregnancy sucked, but I was able to cope by eating sour candy and crackers. So when I got pregnant again, and had hyperemesis gravidarum, my then-partner didn't understand "why" I was so sick, didn't want to go anywhere, and had no desire for sex at all. He didn't understand what that experience as like, and lacked the willingness to try and understand. I wish he had listened to me and understood that it wasn't about him. I was sick, and needed empathy, dammit.
When She's Emotional
Pregnancy hormones are no joke, and they can make you feel all the things, sometimes at the same damn time. My advice for people with pregnant partners is to just roll with it. Your best bet is empathy. Assume that they have no control over their emotional outbursts, and try not to take anything personally. Unless, of course, you actually did something wrong. Then the only thing you should say is, "I'm sorry."
When She Knows What She Can Do
I will never forget the moment when my husband asked my OB-GYN if I should stop working out. It made me furious. The only person who gets a vote about what a pregnant person chooses to do with their body is the pregnant person. Full stop.
When She's Exhausted
Pregnancy is exhausting. It's no wonder that pregnant people fall asleep randomly or sometimes feel like they they can't get off the couch. Don't take it personally, and let her get some rest. She's growing an actual person inside her body. It's a lot of work.
She Needs A Break
When she needs to put her feet up, because they are swollen and sore or because she gets put on bedrest by her doctor, the thing to do is order take out and hand her the remote while you clean the house or get the nursery ready for baby. Mama needs, and deserves, a break.
When She Has Pregnancy Cravings
Pregnancy cravings can be weird, gross, and change almost instantly and without notice. So don't be surprised if your partner wants ice cream at midnight or cries when they discover you ate the Thai leftovers in the fridge.
(Never eat your pregnant partner's food. That should go without saying.)
When Her Sex Drive Changes
Your pregnant partner might want sex all day long, or might feel like they never want to have sex again. They might be really into it, and then get weirded out by their fetus kicking, or they might accidentally fall asleep during the deed. As bad as you might feel in these moments, I promise, your pregnant partner feels worse. So you should try to shoulder the emotional labor of the situation. Your pregnant partner deserves understanding.
When She's Scared
Pregnancy can be unbelievably scary. And when you are pregnant, logic often takes a backseat to a plethora of emotions, especially if your baby is sick or you're waiting on test results. I know from experience that having a supportive partner when you have pregnancy complications makes a huge difference. So, staying calm in times of crisis is a must.
The same goes for giving her a pre-labor pep talk. She's gonna probably need your support to do this huge and hard thing, and she deserves some words of encouragement without having to ask.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.